FIRST Robotics Finds a Way
March 18, 2021
In January, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics announced changes to the high school First Robotics Competition (FRC) and middle school First Tech Challenge (FTC) programs as large scale, in-person events would not be able to be held this year due to COVID restrictions.
FRC introduced INFINITE RECHARGE at Home, in which teams used the Infinite Recharge bot to navigate an obstacle course or shoot Power Cells into a target. Rather than competing against one another, teams competed individually on a field and submitted a video to FRC for judging. FTC announced a brand-new game this year called Ultimate Goal. Instead of competing against other teams, FTC teams also recorded videos and submitted them for judging.
Changes to the competition formats were not the only challenge for FIRST teams, however. The COVID pandemic resulted in the shutdown of many corporate-donated build spaces the teams had been able to use in the past at the same time K-12 schools lost build spaces because they were being used to support regular school functions in a socially-distant environment. As a result, the FIRST community needed to find new partners to host practice fields for FRC and “hubs” for FTC.
Thanks to the hard work of many individuals from the West Michigan FIRST team and the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing (PCEC), Grand Valley State University (GVSU) was able to create practice space for both FRC and FTC at the Innovation Design Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.
“It was so rewarding to see the teams able to test their robots and create the videos for the competitions despite all of the challenges stacked against them due to COVID,” said Sara Maas, PCEC Outreach Coordinator. “FIRST is a wonderful program for developing technical and teamwork skills. I'm glad that we were able to provide a safe venue for the kids to come and demonstrate all of their hard work.”
As this season starts winding down, we look forward to hosting many FIRST teams at GVSU in the future.